Want to Catch a Really Big Fish? Paddlefish Snagging Season Starts March 15 in Missouri
Starting in mid-March you’ll be able to try to catch a fish that can weigh well over 100 pounds. KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has more on paddlefish snagging season.
Paddlefish snagging is a very popular sport, according to Trish Yasger, fisheries management biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation.
"A lot of people it's kind of--the family has always done it every spring. It's kind of a rite of spring," she said.
Paddlefish are bottom feeders, according to Yasger, so they don’t take bait or eat fish. Anglers put heavy weights on their lines and then blind snag for them.
"So, you let your line out, and when the weight hits the bottom, you're just gently jerking the line back and forth trying to blindly hit that fish," she said.
Paddlefish must be 34 inches long to keep, which Yasger said is probably a fish that weighs around 30 pounds.
"That's probably the smallest you're going to take home, so people enjoy catching them because, not only are they good to eat," she said, "but, you know, where else can you get a fish that exceeds 100 pounds?"
The record for a paddlefish caught in Missouri was set last year when Andy Belobraydic snagged one weighing 140 pounds 9 ounces at Table Rock Lake.
They have plenty of time to get really big, Yasger said, since those in reservoirs can live into their early 30s. She said some further north in Missouri can live to around 50.
Yasger recommends that once a paddlefish is snagged, anglers get them into their boats using a large net. Gaffs can be used, she said, as long as the fish is a legal size and anglers are taking them home to consume.
"What we don't want to see is a gaff and you putting holes in a sublegal fish that needs to be released because you do need to release them immediately unharmed," she said.
In Missouri, paddlefish can be found in the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, Table Rock and Truman Lakes and Lake of the Ozarks. Fish raised at Blind Pony Hatchery in Sweet Springs are stocked into those waterways each year since damming of rivers prevented the fish from swimming upstream to spawn.
Yasger reminds anglers they must have a fishing license to snag for paddlefish, and those driving the boat need to have one, too.
The Department of Conservation urges anyone who snags a tagged paddlefish to remove the tag and send it in to them. Those that do will get a t-shirt and be put into a drawing for cash prizes. They can also take a picture of the tag and send it instead. And if they find a radio transmitter in the fish’s belly, they’re asked to return it, too.
Yasger said paddlefish are good to eat—either battered and fried, grilled or boiled and served with butter.
Paddlefish snagging season runs March 15 through April 30. Learn more here.